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Wishful Thinking

Mood: Chilly | Drinking: Water

leaves

Begone already, 2008! Begone and take your bad juju with you.

I am ready for the new, for the nines, for the next. I’m ready to get on with it.

Out with your tired recession, with your fearmongering H8, with your lame duck, lame ass “decider”.

Out with your hopeless pundits, with your gloomy forecasts, with your insistence upon serving up more bad news with every broadcast.

Let’s bring in a season of change, 2009. Let’s bring in hope. Let’s bring in fresh faces with new ideas. Let’s bring in the motivation to make this place better, and do it together.

Whether I like it or not, my new year is barreling in with a world of change, and I am doing my best to be ready for it, to meet it head-on and make it work. So here we go…

-Lo, kicking out the old.

The Unbearable Lightness

Mood: Numb | Drinking: I should be!

verybadday

When I was little, I loved the book about the boy Alexander and his “terrible, horrible, very bad, no good day.” Something about the drama of that statement seemed hilarious to me at the time.

But I have had a terrible, horrible, very bad, no good week, and am not yet finding it hilarious.

The lead-in to this supersonically shitastic week began last month when my parents were visiting and we got a call from my aunt, who lives in Hawaii. She has had my grandmother living with her for the past year and a half. Three weeks ago, Nana was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer.

Upon hearing the news, my mother decided to fly over to Hawaii so she could see her mom and see what she could do to help. My sister decided to go with her so she could introduce her 10-month-old son to his great-grandma before it was too late. I decided to go with them to be of whatever support I could.

So on November 1st my mom, my sister, my nephew and I boarded a plane to Oahu. I’ve never been to Hawaii before. It’s a very strange experience, going to a vacation spot on such an anxious family errand. Everyone else was wearing bikinis and flaunting their newly acquired tans while the three Witmer women jostled about on various harried excursions, sweaty, disheveled, toting a tired baby and wearing decidedly un-tropical shoes.

Thus began what has quite possibly been the worst week of my life. The photo above was taken on Sunday, November 2, at sunset on the North Shore near Haliewa. It was possibly the last truly peaceful moment I will have in quite awhile.

On Monday, while I was at my aunt’s house, Nana suddenly complained of chest pain, then head pain, then her knees buckled as my aunt was helping her walk. I lunged across the room to help catch her as she fell, and my aunt and I lowered her to the floor where she lay, gasping for breath like a fish on the shore, eyes rolled up in her head.

My aunt and I were the only ones there at the time, so I called 911, then called my mother as I stood at the end of the driveway waiting for the ambulance. My mom and the paramedics arrived at the same time, and she and I drove behind the ambulance to the hospital in Wahiawa.

Nana was pronounced dead 20 minutes after our arrival.

That was Monday. On Tuesday, amid the shock of grief and initial frantic funeral planning, I anxiously watched election returns come in. I had cast my vote early at city hall once I knew I would be out of state on election day, but I missed the thrill of that early morning democratic ritual, wearing the sticker in to work and walking about the rest of the day feeling oh, so civic-minded.

I didn’t have access to a TV, so I was scanning several websites at once and instant messaging with Boy, trying to keep up as states were called blue or red.

Of course, I am overjoyed that Barack Obama is now our President-Elect, and I am filled with hope at what that means for the future of our battered country. But the thrill of victory was tempered by the passage, here in California, of Proposition 8, which takes away the right of gay couples to get married. Such a crushing blow for equal rights everywhere.

That was Tuesday. On Wednesday, my sister and I woke early and packed our bags because our return flight for the mainland was scheduled for that afternoon. First, though, we stopped by my aunt’s house to help deal with decisions that needed to be made: When were my aunt and my mom flying back to Illinois? When should we have the wake and the funeral? What relatives still needed to be called? Who were the pallbearers going to be? What photos of Nana did we have for a memorial? What clothes should she wear in the casket?

So many decisions, so many emotions, and no time. As my sister and I checked our bags at the airport in Honolulu, I realized I had left my credit card at the Mililani Kinko’s where we had been scanning in old family photos so Boy could use them to make a memorial DVD for the funeral service. I’ve never forgotten my credit card anywhere. What a time to do it!

Seven hours later, give or take, my sister, my nephew and I landed at SFO a bit bedraggled and worse for wear. I crashed into bed at about 2 a.m.

That was Wednesday. On Thursday, I woke up early and headed into work, my head full of all I needed to do to prepare for yet another trip. I needed to tell my boss that I would be taking bereavement time and traveling to the funeral. I needed to catch up on work I missed because of the trip to Hawaii.

Instead, I walked into work only to find out that I, my best friend, and about 1/3 of my company were being laid off. I was completely blindsided. I knew, of course, that the economy was awful, but I naively assumed that my job would be safe. I was wrong.

That was Thursday. Today I woke up and wondered what else was going to go wrong. At 11:30 a.m. I found out: a friend from high school called with news about her family and a crisis they are suddenly going through. Somehow I wasn’t surprised to finish off the week with a bang.

So now I am packing my suitcase so Boy and I can get on a plane in the morning and head back to Illinois. There will be a wake on Sunday, and a funeral on Monday – which also just happens to be my birthday.

It all seems so surreal. I’ve never called 911 for a medical emergency before. I’ve never before waited at the end of a driveway, knowing the sirens I could hear from a distance were coming for me. I’ve never before stood in an emergency room and watched a doctor come out to tell me that he’s sorry, but they did everything they could. I’m still having trouble believing it’s all real.

One of the executives at my company on Thursday, after I had gotten the news about my now non-existent job, asked me what I was feeling. I just started laughing and looked at her and said, “I have no idea what I’m feeling!”

That’s still true, to an extent. It’s been a helluva week, and it’s too much to wrap my head around all at once. I think that underneath it all, I’m ok, and I believe that I will be ok. But from here on out, I’m just taking one day at a time until I come out the other side.

I’m grateful for my family. I’m grateful for one unexpected good surprise, that I get to spend my birthday with them. I’m grateful for my supportive and compassionate friends. I’m grateful for the way LeeLoo wiggles her butt so hard whenever I walk through the door. I’m especially grateful for Boy and for the way that he loves me.

So now I’m going to go be with my family, and remember Nana, and eat some Chicago pizza. The rest of it I’ll deal with when I come back.

Anyway, that was my week. How was yours?

-Lo, breathing in, breathing out.

Enough Already

whitehouse
Mood: Cynical
Drinking: Tea

I’m so sick of all the politics. From both sides. From all sides!

Let’s just get this goddamn election over with already.

I’m too beaten down to feel any real sense of hope — I’m ashamed and disappointed and disillusioned by my fellow countrymen these last interminable eight years.

I want change I can believe in and I want to believe in change, but it seems things just keep changing for the worse.

My only comfort comes from the fact that I live in San Francisco. In this beautiful tiny bubble of reason.

Enough with the rhetoric and the conventions and the posturing and the mudslinging and the insane woman with her silly glasses and fussy hair.

I’m over it…

Miz Dooce speaks with much more eloquence on her blog today than I could at the moment. All I can come up with is, “Suck it, Palin!” And that’s just sad. So I’ll just send you over to Dooce and tell you that if I were better at being coherent about these sorts of things, that’s EXACTLY what I would have said.

And after that, please enjoy this amusing aside from my lovely friend G about the albino turtle.

-Lo, who loves her country, but wants to smack its bitch up sometimes.

Inaugural

Mood: Ebullient
Drinking: Waiting

I shot my mouth off a lot on Tuesday.

Giddy with the dawning of a new era, I got all sassy on facebook and talked smack about inaugural poet Elizabeth Alexander.

I really have nothing against the woman herself. I just felt her poem to be middling-to-average, and her delivery of said poem was awful.

Perhaps I took it a bit too personally because I was so excited to have a contemporary poet standing up there on that bright stage, in full view of the entire world. I cheered when she appeared and was all full of goodwill and go get ’em, girl.

And then she spoke, and I was a bit deflated.

Granted, whoever planned the order of the ceremony did her no favors by placing her after all the big hoopla, and so the crowds, whose toes were probably a bit frozen by then, couldn’t be bothered to sit through a poem when the big moment had already transpired.

If she had been placed right after the invocation, she probably would have fared a bit better.

Someone also brought up the point about nerves given the huge crowd, the national stage, etcetera, but let me say this: I have performed in front of tiny rooms and huge auditoriums and outdoor concerts full of raucous teenagers and I would take the hundreds of thousands of faces any day over a small, intimate gathering. Big crowds are cake.

No, I’ve never performed in front of all the living Presidents of the United States, with Oprah in the front row and CNN cameras staring me down, but I’m quite confident I could have pulled out a better reading than Ms. Alexander.

So that’s what I said, more or less, on facebook on Tuesday. And then somebody called me out, challenged me to put my pen where my mouth was and write something myself, since I was so dissatisfied with the poem in question.

And that’s what I’ve spent the last 2 days doing. I’m sure inaugural poets get more than 2 days to craft their work, but I’m not really trying to one-up anyone. Not really. It just became important, sunddenly, to put my finger on what exactly it was I wanted to say about January 20, 2009.

As I started writing, I found that my focus was very simple. It was all about hope. So I wrote about the steadily burning hope I felt on that day, and the hope I’m sure so many others felt as we watched it all unfold.

I borrowed a few words from Nietzsche, from Dr. King, and from President Obama himself. And although I’m sure my chances of being invited to read at such a historical event are quite slim, if I were, this is a poem I would not be embarrassed to read there…

Harbinger

Hope does not automatically spring eternal.
It must first be ignited and after that, fueled.

Constantly it must be sheltered,
lest it be crushed
by the brutal jackboot of prejudice

or wither into obscurity beneath the negligent gaze
of the well-intentioned ignorant.

If hope is indeed the “worst of evils,”
prolonging the torments of the living,
it is also, by necessity, the best of pleasures,
making the work of living worthwhile.

While we breathe, we hope,
for without,
breath blows in vain
heart beats only out of habit
and all of it ceases to mean anything lovely.

It has to begin somewhere, so why not here
this winter morning, under limitless frigid sky,
why not here where we have gathered together
so when the books are written, we can say
we were there.

Why not here where we wait, guardians of the day,
assuring one another by our presence
that this hour has really come.
This moment is really ours.

Take the hope from its hiding place
deep in your chest
and pass this warm light
from hand to hand
quickly
carefully.

Watch as faces
begin to share a telltale glow
and a path appears
where once there loomed an impenetrable wall.

Once, a man had a dream.
Today another man stands
and raises his hand
as evidence of things hoped for,
the embodiment of things not seen.

While there is hope, all is not lost.
While there is hope, courage can be found.
While there is hope, there is momentum,
the sudden possibility of change,
the eternal probability of joy.

Give us a reason to believe and
we will hew from the mountain of despair
a stone of hope.

And with that stone
we will bring down giants.

-Lo, who finds that it always comes back to the knife edge of hope.

The Fires Burn Low

Mood: Crouching
Drinking: Pop, Fizz

I’m leaping into a change of scenery. Inhale and hold.

Change equally inflames and frightens me, and at the moment I’m teetering on the fence, right foot in front of left, arms flung out like airplane wings, trying to maintain my ambivalence.

Tomorrow is my last day at a job that has been good to me for the past two years. Next week I start a new gig with a lot of risks and a lot of perks.

I came back from Chicago with a midwestern head cold and in between sneezes I am trying to remind myself that comfort isn’t a good enough reason to stay put. I know all the routines of my current job. I have a color-coded calendar and a carefully labeled file drawer. I know where the landmines are and how to tiptoe around them. I have an assortment of fancy ink pens and an Aeron chair. For two years, I’ve had it made. And now I’m movin’ on.

I’ve got new names to learn and new routines to establish. I’ve got to shape a new voice for a whole new generation and start a discussion about serial commas. And just in time (with all the earthquake rumblings of late), I can finally abandon my Bay Bridge commute to the east side. I’ll be stayin’ in the city every day, all day from here on out. (That’s reason enough to quit a comfortable job.)

I’ll exhale on the other side.

-Lo, slightly delerious with a head full of medicine.